Summer21-22: Playgrounds, Persian cakes and more JimmyB

December 24, 2021 | 12 Comments

It’s been a great week… but a lot has been happening!

I’ve been doing plenty of sketching, spending time with family and still getting time to relax. So it’s been hard to find time to blog!

It’s been really good to have time to do ‘just-for-me’ sketching which has generated new ideas to explore further. But most of all, as I’m gearing up for my Foundations Group Run-through in January, I’ve been thinking about all the concepts from the course while I’ve been doing these sketches.

In this article, I’m going to share some of these thoughts – but because it’s the holiday season these will be abbreviated! 🙂 Please let me know in the comment section below if you want any of these thoughts expanded upon!


Birkenhead Point Shopping Centre: I had 15 minutes before the shops opened (making an important Foundations related purchase) to do an interior sketch.


  • When was the last time I sketched a complex interior like this????
  • Important first step: Nail the eyeline for this one-point perspective
  • What’s my focus? The brick wall with arches (Foundations Lesson 10)
  • Working out from this focus (Foundations Lesson 11)
  • How can I capture the essence of this scene without having to draw everything?


Callan Park (former Hospital for the insane), Rozelle – designed by JimmyB (James Barnet)


  • It was quite hard to find a good spot to sketch (good view from a shady location – it was a warm day) but when I saw this gate I knew I wanted to sketch it. It reminded me of the JimmyB Gaol entrances that I sketched during my big road trip earlier in the year.
  • The composition is a little odd – but that’s what I saw from sitting on the ground 🙂
  • I wanted to use my Light Blue Caran d’Ache Museum watercolour pencil for a little Minimal Setup (Foundations lesson 5) but it wasn’t in my kit… so I experimented with pink and a little lime green coloured pencil. Ah! it’s always fun to try new colour combinations.
  • As I’ve recently been researching the World Wars I was thinking about soldiers who were here.

Here is the full spread with a map of all the walking I did as well.

I needed to do another (larger) version of the tower!


  • Let’s go wild with colour
  • Sky as a colour block (Sketchbook Design)
  • JimmyB liked to use arched openings and I got thinking about how Florentine the window in the tower was…

…so when I got home I did a little research on this type of window. These are some examples I found – the first three are in Florence and the last two from Venice.


And here is the full spread.


I want to start exploring new suburbs of Sydney and in my research, I discovered that Merrylands is a destination for foodies – due to a lot of good Persian and Afghan food. My sister-in-law mentioned that there was a great park there too, so I had about 30 minutes to explore the shopping area before meeting up with the family.

I walked the streets looking up all the good food places (it was 9:30am so I wasn’t actually looking to eat) and then I started to think about what I would sketch on a return visit when I have more time.

As you can see from these photos this area is not particularly picturesque! The character of the place is mainly in the signage which personally I don’t like sketching a lot. So, it was just good to wander the streets and think through these issues.

As I didn’t have time to do a serious sketch I simply did a continuous line sketch while soaking up the vibe of the place. (Foundations Lesson 2)

This page also shows a coffee sketch and a few colour swatches from the kids’ watercolour sets.

Here are quick sketches of the two playground areas at Central Gardens Nature Reserve – paint added back at my sister-in-law’s place during a painting session with the kids.


  • Playgrounds are a fun subject to sketch… some good perspective challenges and bright colours.
  • As soon as I start drawing it seems to become time to leave!

Earlier I had stopped at a Persian cake shop and bought a few treats to try. We had a really fun tasting session dividing these into 7 portions (4 kids, 3 adults).

I think that my nephew asked me two very good questions:

  • Why are you leaving bits white?
  • Why are you not colouring within the lines?

As for the teacup… more about that soon.


Morning coffee and sketch… feeling relaxed and sketching slowly (for me) with details.


  • How much should I draw in ink? This is often an issue with ink and wash… you start drawing and then don’t know when to stop and when to start painting. Can you relate to this? In this case, I decided to keep drawing and leave it ink only. (Foundations Lesson 8)
  • When sketching buildings like this one which have lots of parts that relate to each other I often like to start with a few pencil lines of the main shapes (what I call minimal setup) but in this sketch, I started with ink. I made an error in the first minute but the more I drew the less this mistake was noticeable. (Foundations Lesson 6)

Here is the full spread… I could have done more to this sketch. The swatches on the left side are Faber Castell Watercolour Markers. More about them below.

Two quick filling-in-time sketches in Mosman.


  • How much context to include (Foundations Lesson 11) 
  • Is there a way I can join them (Sketchbook Design – open compositions)
  • Note: the colour block (Sketchbook Design) relates to the colour of the adjacent building and not the colour of the sky at the time.


FRIDAY 24 (Today)

This morning’s coffee and sketch was a direct watercolour one (to balance out the fact I did ink-only yesterday).

Testing out a few new brushes from Rosemary & Co – more about them next week!


  • Once you start seeing the world as shapes, even the most boring scenes can be fun. (Foundations Lesson 3)
  • Both this sketch and the one yesterday are the result of my Merrylands ponderings.

Then I headed into the City for a little sketching. This is my first sketch using the Faber Castell Watercolour Markers while waiting for the ferry. I was afraid I would drop something!

A JimmyB building that I don’t think I’ve ever sketched before – Colonial Secretary building. I used five different brushes for this sketch (experimenting with different marks) and will explain more about this next week.

Then another JimmyB related sketch! He designed the magnificent Garden Palace building (see more here and here) which was tragically destroyed by fire. This gate is all that remains.

Sketching this reminded me of a wonderful Xmas Eve 11 years ago sketching in the gardens with Wendy Shortland… and finishing the day sketching another one of the Botanic Garden gates. See here.

Two quick sketches waiting for the ferry – more brush testing!

I haven’t finished my pages from this morning yet… but at least I’m up to date now with sharing my sketches.

The final sketch is of the Xmas tree outside Customs House (another JimmyB!)… and so I finish this article wishing you Happy Holidays!

However you celebrate it (or not) I hope that you have a lovely weekend.



  • Peggy Bowman says:

    Merry Christmas, Liz. Enjoy your vacation and time with family. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and processes as you sketch. You’re a very gifted artists and teacher. Looking forward to Foundations next year!! Hope it’s a happy and healthy new year for all!

  • Martine says:

    Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Thanks for all your work on your courses, blog and hosting the livestreams. Especially the livestreams, they got me through the last lockdown and probably will get me through our current lockdown (again). Much appreciated! Really looking forward to foundations in January!

  • Laurence says:

    Happy festivities and a great holiday, Liz 🙂
    Definitely 2022 to discover, either by reading your blog or by following your courses, your inspiring artistic adventures !
    I see that you use watercolor markers, these are tools that I plan to investigate further (such as colored pencils) for the coming months.

  • David Campbell says:

    Lots of good questions and teasers in this post, I look forward to reading more about the markers and new brushes. Best wishes for a peaceful and joyful holiday season!

  • Jamie C says:

    These sketches really show much fun, variety, and experimenting you are doing. The bigger pages have quite an influence, too. Lovely to see these! I am still (still!) trying to work out how make sketching a daily routine, so I always love seeing series of pages. You’ve given us so many teasers about entries to come, it’s like the arrival of wrapped gifts, taunting us for the delights to come! Brushes, Faber Castell Markers, and more! It’s especially great to read your Foundations strategies and how you apply them and when. It helps it all click in new ways. I’m very excited to do Foundations next month!

    Happy Holidays and know how much you’ve brought to me and my year (several years!), to my life and how very grateful I am for all you share and do in your blog, and your classes. Seasons blessings to you!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Jamie – and for all your constant commenting as well!!!
      I love the bigger page – wait to you see the big Alpha!!!

  • Mary Garland says:

    This is a wonderful post. It’s as layered and nuanced as the techniques you demonstrate. I love the way you bring it all together and bring us along in the process. Thank you for a year of of inspiration. May your Christmas be merry and bright!

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